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Governor Ralph Northam Visits Freedom to Discuss Rising Anti-Asian Sentiments

Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia Secretary of State Atif Qarni respond to questions after their visit to Freedom High School. Photo by Michael Baker III.

On Thursday, April 15, Governor Ralph Northam made a visit to Freedom High School to hold a round table on the increasing hatred towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

“I was very honored to be the school that was chosen,” said Neelum Chaudhry Freedom High School principal. “We were not a school that was picked randomly [it was because] of our largeness and our diversity.”

Freedom students in person and on a Google Meet continued a conversation with Northam, Chaudhry, interim superintendent Dr. Scott Ziegler, Virginia Deputy Chief Diversity Officer Mona Siddique and Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Quarni.

“Its important for people to have an open mind/personality and to realize that there are cultural differences,” said Elaine Jin, a student participating in the round table discussion. “We should create an environment where people don’t have to feel ashamed of their background.”

The round table gave students an opportunity to discuss their encounters with the rising anti-Asian sentiment to Northam and other influential members of Virginia’s state government .

“I was floored by the candidness of our students and by how articulate they were,” Chaudhry said. “They were good at objectively explaining what their experiences were.”

The conversation and other discussions will continue as well with Northam’s future visits to other Virginia schools.

“Governor Northam is going around the state speaking to students about diversity and about equity to see what we need to change in terms of curriculum and how schools are built and established to ensure inclusivity,” Chaudhry said.

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